Sailors aboard the cruiser USS Philippine Sea prepare to depart Bahrain on March 21, 2021, after an unscheduled port call for COVID-19 vaccinations. Photo by MCS2 Indra Beaufort/U.S. Navy
March 22 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy cruiser returned to duty over the weekend after three weeks in port in Bahrain to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. Central Command announced on Monday.
The guided missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea arrived in Bahrain, headquarters of the Navy's Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf, for an unscheduled visit on March 21, after about 20 sailors tested positive for the virus.
After quarantining, onboard vaccinations for about half the ship's crew began on March 5.
A CENTCOM statement said the port visit and medical support were coordinated with Bahrain's health ministry.
The ship's personnel received the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, with the ship allotted an adequate supply of the second dose. The Navy encourages vaccination but does not require it.
"The immediate care, assistance, and overwhelming support extended by the Kingdom of Bahrain and the Bahrain Ministry of Health, the U.S. 5th Fleet Staff and Medical Teams, and Task Force 55 was awe-inspiring," said Capt. Kevin Hoffman, the commanding officer of USS Philippine Sea.
"This collective team of dedicated professionals provided all of the aid necessary to allow Philippine Sea's sailors to return to sea, fully mission ready," Hoffman said.
Similarly, the amphibious dock ship USS San Diego spent two weeks in Bahrain after 20 sailors and Marines tested positive for the virus during a scheduled logistics and maintenance port call.
The 5th Fleet announced the ship's return to "mission capable" status on March 12.
A Defense Department update on Monday said that military personnel, civilians, dependents and contractors account for 261,039 cases of the COVID-19 infection, worldwide, with 35,350 occurring within the Navy.